Sunday, 10 April 2016

Bevendean Down parkrun

Bevendean is a district of the city of Brighton and Hove, in East Sussex. The name 'Bevendean' is derived from 'Beofa's Valley' and was recorded in the Domesday Book as the Manor of Bevendean. The manor was eventually divided into two separate estates; Upper and Lower Bevendean. It was largely developed after the Second World War with a mixture of council of private housing.

arrival and briefing at bevendean down

The area is borders directly onto the beautiful countryside which is the South Downs to the north east of Brighton and Hove, and part of this area is Bevendean Down. It is made up of chalk grassland, scrub and woodland and also rich in wildlife and is home to many species of butterflies, some of which are quite a rare sight across the UK.

moving to the start line

On 6 February 2016 Bevendean Down parkrun became Brighton and Hove's fourth parkrun venue (the others are Brighton and Hove, Preston Park and Hove Promenade). That first event attracted 103 runners and since then the attendance figures have hovered around 30-45 people. As you may have gathered from the description of the area, it is an off-road course. This differs from the other three parkruns in the area which are all tarmac and, by comparison, relatively flat.

event ten under way

The area around the downs is mostly residential and parking is free on these roads. The area is also very close to a football stadium and on match days some roads are restricted to residents only parking so if you are planning to drive here it is definitely worth checking in advance to find out what is going on.

underfoot you'll find this kind of terrain [photo:7t]

If, however, you travel by train you can alight at Moulescoomb station which is the closest to the venue - the remainder of the journey involves walking uphill so don't cut it too fine on timings. Cyclists could take their bikes to the venue and find a fence to use to lock the bike up or they could use the bicycle racks down at the post-run social venue The Bevy, which is the UK's first community owned pub. They also have toilets which you can use, but they officially open at 9am so it's not guaranteed that you'll have access to them pre-run.

shoop [photo:7t]

We travelled down from Dartford through very heavy rain and parked up near The Bevy as we had already decided to have breakfast there after the event. The course isn't too far from here but if you don't already know how to access Bevendean Down it is worth checking the directions on the official course page beforehand. Coincidentally we bumped into a gaggle of fellow parkrun tourists before the run so it was great to see some familiar faces.

terrain and part of the view [photo:7t]

I headed up the hill and found that some parkrun arrows had been placed to direct arriving parkrunners through an alleyway (known locally as a twitten) and at the end the open space which is Bevendean Down appears - the meeting point and finish area are right here next to the entrance gate. I found one of the organisers and offered to help with the set-up - one completed finish funnel later more of the core team started to arrive and I realised that I should pop back to the car to get changed to for the run. By the time I had finished getting changed, the rain had passed and the rest of the morning remained dry.

end of lap one hi-five [photo:dani]

As I mentioned earlier, it is all off-road so trail shoes are pretty much standard issue here for runners and volunteers. I'd imagine that in the winter some runners may even wear their spikes. Underfoot can be a little uneven and bumpy at times. With this in mind the event team do not recommend this course for buggy runners and for the most part I'd agree. However, if you are a hard-core buggy runner you will get around, but you will suffer for your passion on this course.

the view [photo:7t]

After the run briefing at the meeting point, the day's twenty-eight runners were lead a few hundred metres along to the starting point. The run itself takes place over a clockwise two-and-a-bit lap course (or is it a-bit-and-two-laps?). The first half of each lap is made up of a few gentle inclines with a little bit of relief in-between followed by an unbroken, longer section (approx 500 metres) that leads to the highest point on the course. My GPS readings made it 66 metres of elevation gain within the first 1.5km, this is repeated between the 2.3km and 3.8km points.

'and-a-bit' with finish line in the distance[photo:7t]

With all that hard work out of the way, the second half of each lap is, unsurprisingly, downhill. At the end of the first lap I collected a high-five from my daughter as I passed the finish area. Second time around, the hilly bits felt a little steeper and a little longer, but the views in all directions really did make the suffering worth it (just remember to look up and appreciate them every now and then!). The area is also used for grazing and when I visited there was a flock of sheep quietly munching away on the grass. With this in mind, anybody with a dog will need to keep it on a lead at all times.

a fairly relaxed finish [photo:dani]

So with the second half of the lap being downhill, I found myself feeling quite well recovered as I approached the finish line, which was nice considering I had seriously considered walking up the hill just a few minutes earlier. My wife had volunteered to scan barcodes, so I went and found her to have my barcode and finish token scanned. When all the runners were safely home, the kit was packed away and everyone headed down to The Bevy for the post-run social.

scanning [photo:dani]

When we got to the pub it felt like the entire field of runners and volunteers were also there, which somehow felt right. Although this is currently a very small event, the feeling of community was extra strong. From the moment we arrived until the moment we left, we were made to feel welcome and were treated like part of the family. It's such a nice event that I'm baffled as to why more of Brighton's massive running community are not running here. I can only imagine that it is the nature of the course or the fact that the others are all more central in the town that makes the difference.

the bevy

Once all of the food was eaten, drink was drunken and time exhausted we headed off into Brighton where we had a great day walking around browsing the shops in The Lanes, and as Brighton is the vegetarian/vegan capital of the UK, we indulged in some vegan ice cream / cake / hot chocolate, and then finally dinner. The ice cream was supposed to be celebratory 99 to mark this being my 99th different parkrun venue, but apparently you can't get vegan flakes so I had it without one.

My blogs from the full set of Brighton and Hove parkrun venues:

Brighton and Hove parkrun
Preston Park parkrun
Bevendean Down parkrun
Hove Promenade parkrun

Also, the full list of Sussex parkrun venues can be found here:

The Sussex parkrun venues
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